Plastics processors faced all-new challenges in 2020 to continue production of essential products amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the Plastics News Executive Forum, panelists described how their companies kept employees safe while navigating supply issues and hiring shortages caused by a disaster "no one was ready for."
"We all had contingency plans in place, but they were more related to electrical outages or floods, hurricanes," Geoff Foster, CEO and president of Core Technology Molding Corp., said during the virtual event.
With new supply and staffing challenges to tackle, Core first focused on creating a written protocol based on CDC recommendations, including temperature checking and cleaning work stations, Foster said. It also assigned an environmental and safety coordinator to provide CDC updates and health information to employees.
It also employed a new ERP system that helped it "look at transactions sometimes remotely," he said. Some scheduling and materials procuring were also done remotely, he added.
Some of Core Tech's European suppliers shut down for several months or had long lead-times for shipping, Foster said, leaving the molder with shortages.
"We had to reshore and actually start producing the product ourselves here," he said.
Although one of its biggest customers, BMW, had shut down globally for a month, the company "tooled up" its purchase of components and started making essential personal protective equipment.
Core Tech ended up having a 10 percent increase in staffing to assemble face shields. It also hired six high school STEM students who were looking for internship opportunities while they were home from school amid shutdowns.
"They helped us assemble and hit some really high [production] numbers," Foster said.
Foster said Core Tech also had new requisites as it hired workers amid the pandemic.
"We did a lot more phone interviews before we brought them in a for an interview," he said, in order to "weed out" potential candidates with any "red flags."
"If a candidate came here and they didn't have a mask, or they were reaching to shake everybody's hand, they weren't practicing social distancing, that lead us to believe that when they left the interview they weren't going to practice social distancing and possibly bring COVID back to the plant," Foster said.
"We wanted to get a good feel that the candidate was going to be ready to work in a manufacturing environment," he added.